This week in 1960: Lancaster bypass

Less than 50 years ago, if you wanted to travel the length and breadth of the country, you had to do so on single-carriageway roads.


It Is hard to imagine a time when the UK wasn’t criss-crossed with congested motorways.

But less than 50 years ago, if you wanted to travel the length and breadth of the country, you had to do so on single-carriageway roads.

Here The Engineer reported on the completion of the Lancaster Bypass, an 11.5-mile stretch of road by-passing the city of Lancaster, and forming a small part of what eventually became the UK’s longest motorway, the M6. Further South, motorists were already able to sample the delights of ‘motor-road’ driving on the Preston bypass, an eight-mile stretch of road that was the first length of motorway in the country.

It was, reported the magazine, a considerable engineering challenge. ‘the road climbs to a maximum height of about 300ft above sea level, with views over the sea and the Lakeland hills. The highest embankment is just over 40ft, and the deepest cut about 30ft. The total quantity of excavation was about 1.7 million cubic yards, including over 160,000 cubic yards of peat.’

In a rather quaint estimation of future traffic increases, the magazine reported: ‘Like the earlier road, it has dual two-lane carriageways with a central reservation wide enough to allow widening to a dual three-lane road should this measure be needed in the future.’

They could not have anticipated that 50 years on, despite various road-widening schemes and the creation of the M6 toll road, the motorway that is now regarded as the most congested in the UK, is often slower than the ancient country lanes that snake alongside it.